Monday, August 26, 2013

What comes first? Speaking confidently or confident speaking?

I know . . . trick question. A recent Facebook post by the seriously "positive" Tim Murphey got me thinking. He was commenting on a study commented on by Lynn McTaggart at Positive, commenting on a study done by Michigan State University researchers. (One of my alma maters, by the way, so it must be true!) The point of the article was that people speak in public more confidently when they think about others in their group and not just how nervous they are or whatever. Murphey's point is that when we are connected, we are confident. (In the original study, however,  they seem to have not controlled for the intentional mental focus on anything other than stage/speaking fright--a near fatal flaw--an effect well-established by research and practice in several fields.)

Acton Haptic -
English Pronunciation System
Mea culpa. I tend to be a little skeptical about claims in "confidence before competence" models, especially in pronunciation teaching. An interesting 2007 doctoral thesis by Montha Songsiri of Victoria University, nonetheless, demonstrated, at least in part, how pedagogy can indeed engender confidence in speaking that appears to show up in greater intelligibility and more accurate pronunciation.

And then recently I did a 10-day intensive speaking/pronunciation/accent reduction program using a modified version of the AH-EPS system with pre-MBA nonnative speakers--and may have watched it happen: Beginning with a great deal of speaking in public (oral reading and highly formatted interactions, coupled with public speaking confidence tricks such as posture, breathing)--and concentrating on something other than performance anxiety--seemed to "work!" (In this case, the pedagogical movement patterns of AH-EPS to some extent, I assume.) Where participants' improved pronunciation came from exactly and so quickly is, of course, impossible to say, but the degree of reported improvement alone was almost surprising.  But I am confident in speaking from that perspective, of course! 

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